Chapter 14 : The Elves and Phoenix
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The Elves and Phoenix.
The school was gathered in the Great Hall, amongst the floating candle-lit pumpkins and flying cloud of bats, eagerly anticipating the start of the Halloween feast. This year, the feast seemed somehow different; it was the first time this celebration had required Bill Weasley to don dress robes, and stand at the front of the hall in a small group, for one thing. That was the first thing that piqued curiosity and set chatter going around the hall. The group he was with had not just the now familiar figure of the Minister of Magic, but comprised a number of additional people who were not normally in attendance at the feasts at the school; such as what looked to the students like most of the minister’s advisers. The entire staff of Hogwarts who were present looked as puzzled as the students; although only one of the professors Potter had arrived; strangely, instead of taking his usual seat at the top table, he was stood next to the Minister. Both were anxiously watching the main door as if waiting for something. In fact, everyone was; the headmistress had yet to arrive, which in and of itself was most unusual. This all added to an excited air of anticipation in the Hall; though no-one outside of the visitors could quite understand exactly why; there was something in the air.
Harry smiled to Kingsley. “You ready my friend?” he whispered.
“As I’ll ever be; this is scarier than my maiden speech to the Wizangamot you know.” Kingsley's voice cracked slightly; betraying his nerves. “I wish they would hurry up!”
Harry chuckled. “Don't worry Kingsley, she'll be here soon. Take some deep breaths.”
While Kingsley took some calming gulps of air, Oliver Gresley walked forward. “Ready when you are, Harry. Would you check on the ladies for us?”
Nodding, Harry grinned, and opened the link between himself and Ginny.
In the entrance hall, Ginny and Minerva were waiting the signal to enter. Ginny glanced to the door.
Harry says they are ready; are we?” She smiled
“As I'll ever be!” Minerva grinned. “Tell him to get things started will you?” Minerva grinned.
Ginny laughed, and after a moment smiled. “He agrees; he says we'd better, or Kingsley won't be able to say his vows.”
Minerva laughed. “Typical. He can stand in front of the entire Wizangamot, no problem; but he gets nervous at his own wedding!”
Harry nodded to Oliver, who raised his hand to the only other member of staff who knew what was going on. Professor Flitwick had rehearsed the school choir, without telling them what it was for; and at Oliver’s signal, he called them to order, and the song began. Before the end of the first bar had been performed, all chatter in the Great Hall had gone, and the students and faculty watched, dumbstruck, at this strange turn of events.
They heard the choir start and the chatter to drop to nothing, as they waited by the doors. Kreacher and Winky stood holding the doors, waiting to open them. Minerva winked to the female elf. “Your turn tomorrow Winky.”
The elf grinned widely, and nodded enthusiastically. The first verse of the song finished; and the chorus began. At this signal, the two elves opened the door, and the women walked through.
The doors to the Hall opened; the eyes of everyone swept round to see who it was that was arriving. They soon identified the two figures that were now entering. Slowly walking up the aisle, were two ladies. One was the sports mistress, who was dressed in a red dress with tartan sash across it; next to her was the Headmistress, who was in traditional Scottish dress; her family tartan worn with pride, a bouquet of roses held in front of her.
The students watched the pair walk down the hall; realisation dawning on many, mostly girls who cooed about how lovely it was; the boys mostly looked bewildered.
Ginny and Minerva reached their destination, in front of the staff table, where Oliver; Harry and Kingsley were waiting. The choir reached the last lines of the processional song just as Oliver took his place in front of the couple, and their sponsors. The music faded, and a murmur began amongst the student body. Oliver took a deep breath, smiled, and began the ceremony before the murmur could get louder.
“Ladies, Gentlemen, and students, it is with great pleasure that I pronounce the welcome to you all, on this very special occasion; the wedding of our Minister of Magic, and your Headmistress.” He announced.
“I am Oliver Gresley, head of the department of magical transportation; Uncle to young Martin; and according to your sports mistress, a teddy bear. I am here to preside over this ceremony, but don't worry, you will not miss your feast; it will commence following the wedding.”
The ceremony went smoothly; the couple using their own vows, there was hardly a dry eye amongst the members of the fairer sex present. The binding glowed quite brightly, sealing the marriage, before proceedings moved to the next part of the evening, the feast.
After all had fed and watered came the speeches, which were brief, to the relief of the student body. This was deliberate though; as there was one final surprise for everyone; Minerva had booked the Weird Sisters to perform until midnight, so the tables were cleared, and the happy couple led the first dance, after which the tempo rose and the students took over the floor.
Minerva watched the youngsters enjoying themselves and smiled in contentment.
“Happy my love?” Kingsley asked.
“Ecstatic Kingsley, I always enjoyed watching them party; I am glad we did that.” She gazed at him; he smiled at her happiness.
Midnight arrived, and with it, the time for the final ceremonial. Under-age single witches had to watch, as their older counterparts assembled, and the bouquet was thrown. Minerva felt like she was passing on the baton she had received from Ginny, ahead of Hermione a few weeks before. The bloody Baron prevented Peeves from interfering, as the flowers arced through the air.
The girls were excited as the floral arrangement drew closer to them; Hermione was in the group, the bouquet was heading straight towards her; she reached up and caught them. As she did, golden sparks flew into the air from the blooms. A spectral figure appeared in front of Hermione, as Ron looked on; a stunned look on his face, as he stood, rooted to the spot, just a few feet away. The figure was translucent like a ghost, but unlike the Hogwarts spectres, this figure was not grey. She dressed in fine, but ancient-looking clothes of bright colours, a white cloth covered her head; a wealth of silver jewellery and beads adorned her. Ron took in the scene as the figure leant toward his fiancée. Although he was too far away, and shouldn't have been able to, he heard her every word as she spoke softly in Hermione's ear.
“Heir of my Lord, first of our descendants to be magical; you may soon marry your flame-haired sweetheart, the descendant of the Creafta twins. Only then can you go to the place that pulls you; but not before, or all will be lost. Seek Godric's words in Tigelwotta's hidden book; his descendant and his flame haired wife, sister of your intended, shall discover it; it will tell you what you must do. The founders four planned this long ago; my Lord’s family should ascend in life, and death, if you succeed.”
The figure faded and Hermione glanced to Ron who asked “That was weird, who was she?”
she shrugged.” I don't know, but we must talk to Harry.”
She made her way towards her friend, bouquet all but forgotten in her hand. She did not get far when the grey lady, The Lady Helena Ravenclaw, ghost of her mother’s house, stopped her.
“Miss Granger, you are the one then. I suspected you might be, from the moment you entered Hogwarts, but only now can I be sure it is you. I am pleased that it is so, as would be my mother. The Lady Frayja Huntrodds of Tang appears rarely; last time was five hundred years ago, when she tried to prevent the removal of some artefacts from the school; one, the most vital, is held awaiting the time of restoration. You though, are her heir; the one destined to free her family, give them their rest, and end the legacy of the cursed family. I well remember the day the curse was made; I was there. It was made to ensure an oath between wizard and apprentice was fulfilled; and Salazar could retain his life and magic. I remember the magic Godric and the founders wove to enable the days of its ending. You are the one destined to complete the magic; only you can do it. I look forward to that day.”
The ghost drifted off, singing happily, as she passed through the wall behind the teachers table. The other ghosts of Hogwarts shimmered in the stillness; staring at the spot Lady Frayja had appeared. Even the mischievous spirit Peeves was still, eyes round in awe of what he had just seen.
At last the other girls moved, and approached Hermione to congratulate her; at first she was puzzled, then remembered what they had been doing before Frayja Huntrodds had appeared. She held the roses in her hand, then looked smiling at Ron. Suddenly, she ran to him, and threw her arms round him, their lips meeting as Ron turned a delicate shade of Weasley red.
Minerva and Kingsley finally left the hall; they would not be leaving on Honeymoon until the next day after another ceremony took place.
Shortly after breakfast the next morning, Harry and Ginny were led to the Elf quarters in the school by a nervous Kreacher. They walked through the kitchens, where a few elves were finishing tidying up the remains of breakfast from the duplicate tables of the ones in the great Hall.
The two professors were both in their dress robes, as they had been for the headmistress' wedding the day before.
Passing the fire place, Harry remembered a drunken Winky some years before. He was glad the elf had recovered from her depression now; and knew that first Dobby, and then Kreacher had helped her get over the trauma of being freed by her previous family. Kreacher paused at the door and looked at his Master and Mistress.
“It's all right, Kreacher.” Harry reassured his nervous house elf.
“But Master, you is over dressed, this is only an elf bonding.”
Ginny smiled kindly. “Kreacher. You are important to us; which means your happiness is too. This is your wedding, and just like we dressed up for yesterday, we wanted to do the same today, to show how important a day it is to us; and our respect for you two as well.”
Kreacher's eyes widened, “I and Winky are only elves, not important folk like Headmistress and Minister.”
“You are to us, Kreacher; as part of our family you are both very important to us.” Harry reassured the elf. “Now, shall we go in?”
Kreacher nodded; tears of pride glistening in his large round eyes. Not knowing what to say, but grinning madly, he pushed open the door; the room beyond was full of elves, who turned and watched, as the trio walked to the centre of the room where a space had been left. Harry spotted that a stack of flattish boxes lined the wall at opposite end of the room to the door. They turned to face the way they had come, just as the door opened again, revealing Winky, Minerva and Kingsley. They walked towards Harry, Ginny and Kreacher, but only Minerva and Winky entered the central area of clear space; the room fell silent. Minerva had briefed them on what they must do, so Harry spoke first.
“Our Elves wish to wed; we are agreeable to this bond, and as custom dictates, are willing to accept your female elf into our household. We have brought the price agreed as compensation to your house.” He indicated the stack of boxes by the wall.
Minerva looked at the boxes then responded. “I too, find such a bond between our elves acceptable, the compensation we agreed being adequate and present, I agree with the bond, and give over the elf Winky to your family.”
Both elves bowed to Minerva, then Harry and Ginny; finally bowing again to the Headmistress. When they rose, there was a flash of yellow light, and the boxes disappeared; a second later, the boxes reappeared stacked at the end of the room behind Minerva.
Winky and Kreacher then approached Harry and Ginny, who knelt in front of the two elves. They placed a hand on Winky, and a warm glow surrounded them, as the transfer of the bond completed. The humans then withdrew to the back of the room, while the elves conducted the wedding of two of their kind.
They watched as Kreacher and Winky joined hands, and the other elves began a droning hum not unlike the bass drone of properly-played bagpipes. The two elves glowed as the drone intensified, the colour changed from the gold of the bonding to a master, to a watery silver growing to white silver, as the volume of the elves grew. Suddenly, with a pop, the glow disappeared and the elves stopped the melodic humming; the silence was deafening for several moments.
The boxes disappeared again, and a banging noise came from the direction of a door off the room they were in. Kreacher and Winky slowly made their way to the door, and waited for the noise of banging and scraping to cease. When it had, the two elves flung open the door.
“Elves of Hogwarts.” Kreacher called. “To mark our wedding, our master and mistress have given sufficient beds for you all to have one each; this was agreed with the headmistress of Hogwarts; I know they hope this is an improvement for you all.”
The Hogwarts elves looked wide eyed as they streamed into the room, soon crowding out to thank the humans for such a generous gift. They were amazed the headmistress had allowed the Elf price to benefit them, and not the young masters and mistress's as other Heads had done in the past. They ushered the humans through the door to see the new beds.
The room was very large, and beds lined the walls, and were arranged in a row down the middle creating two aisles between them; there were more than sixty beds in this room. This room was for the male elves they were told; a door at the other end led to the female elves’ room where a like number of beds were similarly arranged. A third door led to a corridor, from which access to the rooms for married elves and elf families was given; each elf had received a new bed thanks to the union of Kreacher and Winky.
Many of the elves were returning to the kitchens to prepare lunch for the students and staff. Kreacher and Winky escorted the humans up to the entrance hall of the castle in time for Minerva and Kingsley to leave for a weeks honeymoon. The whole staff were present, to wave them off. Once the Thestral-hauled coach had disappeared, they turned, and walked into the Great Hall. Filius, as acting head whilst they were away, led the way.
The newly married Elves had refused all offers of even the afternoon off, instead insisting they serve Harry and Ginny their meal. So it was, that the two elves proudly brought the plates of food to the couple, side-by-side, much to the amusement of the rest of the staff.
Fryga and her son had been eagerly taken in by Orin's family; she may not be magical, but that wasn't her fault as far as they were concerned. Orin and his brother never worried about such things; all that mattered was she was loyal to Utred and he had welcomed her back into the protection from which she had been ripped by Styr. They both soon settled into the household, helping with the chores and rapidly becoming part of the family. Orin's nephew, who now made the wands, albeit under his fathers watchful eye, was widowed; he particularly took an interest in her and she in him, whilst her son played with his sister’s children. Orin had told Utred a few days after she moved in that his family all felt it was now complete with the arrival of Fryga. Utred was glad she had found happiness; they could all do with it, as the signs of coming battle grew.
Over the days and weeks into late autumn, more and more men arrived; the Chiefs who led them erecting tents to house themselves and their advisers in the school grounds, their men setting up camp in the lands surrounding the village. Wizards arrived from Godric's Hollow as well as a few with the Chiefs. Eventually, ten thousand fighting men had been gathered, and still more were expected after winter from the low lands and far north. They would be a formidable army; though they knew Styr could draw on a much larger army of Northumbrians.
The Creaftas, Ulf, Erik and Orin sat behind Utred, they were his advisers for the King's court; Godric had the other three founders and a man from the village behind him. All the lands of Alba were represented by the relevant chief supported by their most trusted men, some even had wizards with them; all were completely stunned by the venue they found themselves in. The Great Hall was out of bounds to students today, to allow the king's council to take place. The king sat where the staff table usually was, and all the tables and benches were pushed to the sides of the hall for the council, leaving the centre free for those who wished to make representations to the King. Godric, as host, sat to the King's right, Utred as the only other Lord in residence sat to his left; all three had their main advisers sat immediately behind them where they could speak with each other without disturbing proceedings. The group on the dais was impressive, dressed in their finest, displaying their wealth, as they looked out at the gathered lords who had so far brought men. Stood directly in front of the king were two figures, spies, one from Jorvik, the other from Wessex.
“Styr has begun to distance himself from Hrothweard in some ways, not enough to be actually seen to be acting against the archbishop, but enough that he started his council meeting without him.” The Jorvik spy reported. “The body of St. Cuthbert is to be moved from the crypt at Onripum to a purpose built shrine at Dunholm imminently. The Fryd of Northumbria has been summoned by Styr to provide the guard. Wessex has ordered Hrothweard to accept Styr's men and place his own at the King's disposal for the duration of the procession and ceremony.”
Constantine nodded “Styr got his offer to Wessex first then. Is Wessex sending men as well?”
The other spy shook his head. “No, they view this as a purely Northumbrian matter. I believe they see it as a win-win for them sire. If they succeeded in transporting the dead saint again, then the church has gained a new strength in Northumbria; if they are attacked and fail, then they have reason to march north and remove both Styr and the Archbishop for their failure. Wessex is preparing men to march north in the spring; they aim to take Jorvik while Styr is distracted with us. They plan to tell Hrothweard to offer the church’s army for the defence of the city, as would be usual, whilst the King leads his men.”
Godric leant over and addressed the king in the low murmur; the king nodded, then asked. “Your reports are useful as always, it seems that the puppet King of Jorvik is to be replaced with the help of those kingdoms under Wessex. You have confirmed intelligence we had word of, and brought news we needed. However, my friend Lord Gryffindor asks if there is any news of a family of Hogsmeade, last heard of leaving Jorvik for the south. What can you tell us of the Durslieg's?”
The spy from Wessex smiled. “After leaving Jorvik they entered the court of the King of Wessex, and they found favour through the Archbishop with him. They were rewarded for their story; they have received a farm in the south that had been given to the church; it has been named by the King as a new settlement. The elder Durslieg has become Lord Durslieg of Durslieg as a result, he has some dozen households on his land. It is certain that they betrayed the name of the village next to this castle to Styr.”
Godric sighed. “Styr is one of us, and has a number of wizards in his guard, as well as Muggle sworn men. He, or one of his wizards, could find us and lead his Army here.”
“If he did then he would win favour in the church.” The spy from Jorvik observed. “Though not enough to give him the throne he desires; he is not descended from Alfred. The church wish to fulfil his dream. Styr's brother threatened Wessex, simply by not playing their games; as a result, and due to lack of diligence in watching for signs of betrayal, he lost his life and the throne to Styr. His brother tolerated wizard kind, not just allowing them to settle peacefully, but also keeping their secret. Styr has sought favour with the church, who supported his brother’s murder; by eliminating any magical people who were not in his circle, or who he could not control. Lately, he has betrayed those who were unable to pay him what he wanted. His son, Thorfin, now carries out the actual murders. Styr wants the throne Alfred desired, he thinks this is how he will get it; however, the representatives of the nailed God will not allow it.”
Utred grinned. “Your Majesty, we were aware of the usurpers activities as well as those of his son; our people have been rescuing their intended victims, and resettling as many as possible to safe locations. We do have a new team keeping an eye on Thorfin and his activities, as well as other operatives in Northumbria. The new team will intervene where necessary.”
Constantine grinned. “Thank you Lord Utred. As Styr will not be able to act until the spring, can we link my agents with yours to pool resources?”
Both Utred and Godric grinned and nodded, and the council moved on to other matters, as the first of the chiefs stepped forward to report on the state of his men. It would be a long evening.
While the council of the King Constantine was taking place at the school, Thorfin was in fact leading a group of his father’s men to a quiet, lonely farmstead to the west of Jorvik. They had received word from the archbishop that he suspected the occupants were all pagans who pretended to be faithful Christians and practised magic. King Styr, of course, knew that this was the case; and though the family were not in his inner circle, they had paid him well for his protection, without question, until this year. Styr had not wanted to act, seeing this as a distraction from the main target, but as the family had ceased to pay him as much as he wanted from them, he had seen no other reason to deny the archbishop. He had sent his son to lead a raid on the property, and claim it for the church—after taking anything of value for his own use of course; they would have to have gold hidden somewhere. Since his mother had died last winter, and Styr had been able to include him, Thorfin had become skilled at such raids; if overly brutal even for his father’s tastes. The boy had been on fifty such raids over the last few months, and had honed his skill on the flesh of those the two deemed Blood traitors.
The valley below them was a broad, shallow, fertile flood plain with a small river meandering through it, ideal for the small farmstead. The banks of the river were blurred with reed-filled marshland and coppiced willow trees. Although the first frosts had yet to appear, the leaves on the trees were a mix of yellows, oranges and reds, but had yet to fall as the plants headed towards their inevitable winter hibernation, and the nights drew in, shortening the hours of daylight. The land between the gentle slopes of woodland, in which they sat watching, and the river was clearly good fertile land; of recently harvested bare fields and good grazing for animals between early spring and late autumn. The harvested crop was either stored or sold, and there were now just a few sheep cattle and goats, where a month ago the fields would have been full. The few remaining would either be eaten during the winter, or kept as breeding stock for the following spring, to produce stock to sell next year. The fields divided by post and rail fences, made simply of split logs from the surrounding forests held together with rope bindings, created a network across the flood plain.
The house itself was a long house of older wattle and daub construction, with a thatched roof of reeds from the wetlands near the river. The thatch was old enough that wildlife nested in it, but not so old it needed replacing. The area behind the house held a pen, where two pigs nosed the ground, and chickens scratched the ground outside the pen, while further from the house was the rubbish pit, next to the cess pit which had fresh damp moss draped over the woven hurdles that surrounded it. To the visible side of the house two long trenches had been dug and filled with water; bundles of fresh cut willow withies had been placed in them to keep them supple for basket weaving; stacks of the completed wares were stacked beneath the rafters awaiting transport, to be sold at the market in Jorvik. Next to them, a stack of cut logs for fuel had been stacked up to the level of the window, which had been fitted with its wooden shutter to keep out the worst of the coming winter wind, and freezing temperatures. Straw woven skeps sat on simple benches, the bees that lived in them still buzzing in the unseasonably mild weather, though there were few flowers left for them to gather nectar from. A well-worn path led between frames of drying fish and meat awaiting movement into the house’s rafters for long term storage; to a wooden jetty that jutted out into the river; a small boat containing nets was moored there awaiting use. The house itself was positioned close to the edge of the valley, on ground above the flood plain, with enough ground to over-winter the few brown fleeced sheep and cattle safely from any flood the season may bring.
The small group of Styr's men commanded by Thorfin had watched the family's activities since their arrival in the mid afternoon. They knew the family were the Symonite's, the man and his two sons, one about eleven the other a little younger, tended the few animals in the fields. The woman of the house and the daughter stayed near the house; the young girl keeping her drop spindle spinning efficiently, converting the already combed rollags of fleece gathered from the family flock, into thread ready for dyeing in preparation to be woven; whilst her mother carried out her daily chores. Late in the afternoon a large bird flew in from the north and entered the house; Thorfin guessed it was the family owl returning from hunting. He wondered if it had carried a message to or from another blood traitor; it was a possibility, though he would likely never know. A few minutes later, the woman sent the girl to fetch her father and brothers from the fields. She helped them drive their few sheep and head of cattle to the house, and in through the doors at one end. They secured the beasts, then the two youngest rounded up the half-dozen hens and the family cockerel into the house, whilst the others drove the pigs in and gathered in the baskets; it seemed they were going through their end of day routine. Thorfin and his men stayed out of sight in the trees, watching the now peaceful valley; waiting for the sun to completely set behind the house they were watching, its light blocking out the brief blue glow that originated inside.
The last of the glow from the sun had disappeared, so Thorfin had ordered his team to close in. There had been no sign of movement since the family had entered the house; though they could see the orange glow from the fire flickering through the gaps around the doors and window shutters.
The house was silent and their movement was undetected from within, as they surrounded the house. Thorfin lit his torch with his wand, then held the flame to the torches held by those either side of him; they in turn passed the flame on. Within seconds all the men held lit torches, flames leaping into the night. They thrust them into the roof, and set light to the thatch of the house, and waited for the family to rush out to tackle the blaze; or at least escape it. The moment they emerged, as all the others they had been ordered to kill in the past had done, Thorfin and his well practised men would put them to the sword. The flames spread, and grew quickly on the old thatch; alarmed birds flew swiftly to find new roosts, mice, rats and squirrels leaping from the roof in an effort to flee, yet still no sign of life from inside.
The flames grew in intensity, accompanied by a roar; sounding and looking like enraged dragons, as they rose into the night. The minutes passed, the only sound coming from the fire, no sound of distressed animals panicking under the burning roof. More time went by; the men were looking at each other puzzled, there were no more signs of anything or anyone trying to escape; nothing but the crackling of burning timbers, flames, smoke and embers rising into the night sky. This was most disconcerting; even as the roof collapsed between the walls, guaranteeing nothing inside would be alive, there was no sound of human or animal in pain; surely nothing could sleep peacefully through this torture. Yet, although they had seen the family enter, they had certainly not left. Thorfin was at a loss.
“My lord.” one of his men approached.
“What is it?” Thorfin snapped, angered at the absence of evidence of suffering that should have been caused.
“The smell my lord.” The man replied.
Thorfin nearly drew his sword on the man who appeared to have developed a cowardly aversion to the smell of wood smoke, it didn't seem right, this was one of his trusted men. He had been present at many Hall burnings with him, there was no way his stomach could suddenly be so weak for the task. His hand moved from the hilt of his sword as he pondered what the man had said, was there something wrong with the smell of the Hall burning in front of them? His mind suddenly clicked in place – yes the smell was wrong; certainly there was the bitter scent of burning wood, even the tang of charring horn, but the sweet aroma of cooking and burnt meat was absent. There was no flesh in the blaze, but how? Portkey, perhaps; or maybe apparition... no, not that they couldn't have transported the animals with either as far as he knew, but certainly this had something to do with Magic. It was the only way there could possibly be no one inside the house.
The bright blue flash near the lodge by the lake faded to reveal a family, together with a collection of domestic animals that had not been there before. Above them was a large brown bird, from a distance it could easily be mistaken for an owl. Slowly it changed colour revealing a Phoenix. Flame shed her disguise which she had allowed to be applied to her on each of these rescue missions. Frayja had departed to inform a family of their son’s acceptance at the school and had entered the property, under a notice-me-not charm, with the disguised Phoenix. She had noticed the men hiding in the trees; recognising Thorfin, she had quickly changed the plan, and explained it all quickly to the mother. Once the family were together, and all their animals were inside the house, Frayja had told them of the men hidden in the trees and who they were. The family did not seem surprised, they had not paid Styr this year, and he knew what they were; they had hoped he would overlook them as unimportant. Obviously this had been a forlorn hope. The family had quickly agreed to her offer to take them all to the school, Flame had transferred them the moment they were ready, leaving the house where it was, only transferring the living from inside with whatever they could carry.
“Welcome to Hogwarts castle.” Frayja grinned. She was the first of the group to recover having experienced the instant transportation of Phoenix travel before.
Godiva had been waiting for Frayja to return with the boy, but had realised the family must have been in danger if her friend had brought them all. She walked over towards the group, whilst Flame sang reassuringly, then flew towards the castle to find Godric.
“You are safe now.” Godiva assured the family as she reached them. “Better get the beasts put with the others before they recover enough to start wandering. Oi, you lot!” She called spotting some likely assistance.
The group of men at a nearby tent, who were looking open mouthed at the new arrivals, suddenly reacted to Godiva's shout; she laughed at their response. “Put these sheep in with the others and the cattle in their area for us, while I take the Symonite's to see Godric, will you?” She instructed.
The men nodded and began rounding up the animals whilst the family and two Creaftas ladies walked through the camp to the castle, constantly reassuring the family, who were awed by the building before them.
As dawn broke over the still smouldering house, Thorfin ordered his men to search the cinders for evidence of the occupants; charred bone or teeth would be normal, and if they could find it in the end of the hall the family used, well so much the better. They searched the still smouldering hot, but cooling ashes, finding nothing. No pots, loom weights, valuables, or any bones; not even from the animals. It was as if they had burned a building that was not just abandoned, but had never been occupied.
The family, their possessions and animals, had simply vanished into thin air. Thorfin decided that the next targets would be put to the sword before the fire was set; they would suffer less, but it would at least ensure the traitors would be dead. He gathered his men and horses, ready to ride to Onripum; he and his team would ride in honour, ahead of the coffin containing the long dead saint, to clear the way.
With the help of the two Creaftas ladies, and Flames song, the Symonite family soon calmed enough to talk with Godric. The report from the family Thorfin had tried to murder removed any doubt at all that magical folk were being deliberately targeted on the orders of Styr.
They remembered Utred, and were relieved to find him alive. They had recognised his ability to heal himself so quickly as a child as evidence that he was, in fact, magical. They also remembered Fryga from when she had purchased their baskets for use at Tang, and were pleased to find her safe, and to meet her son. The adults had been trained in wizardry by their own parents, but were interested to learn that it was their eldest son reaching eleven that had brought about the visit from the school. They would have gladly agreed to visit the new school to give their child the chance to learn in safety, even before discovering Thorfin planned to attack that evening. They knew that by now their home, like the hall at Tang, would have been destroyed, and as such they were only too pleased to have the chance to start again.
The news they had brought from Northumbria confirmed the spies’ report, and added some detail to them, including information they had heard about; the plans for transporting the dead saint across Northumbria safely. The numbers of guards were vastly larger than needed to move anything of importance across friendly country, so they guessed it was a cover to move men north. From this alone Constantine and his advisers knew they must prepare for war.
In an earlier chapter I included the supposed population of Jorvik a thousand years ago, since then further evidence has been discovered. I have also stated that our understanding of history is constantly evolving. A clear example of this is that whilst the evidence still shows Jorvik to be the biggest city of the age the estimate of population have been shown to be inaccurate. Latest excavations in the city have produced sufficient evidence that the estimate has been adjusted to take into account that the spread of the city has grown, whilst the density of houses remains the same, This and other clues mean the population would seem to be between 20 and 30 thousand souls rather than the previously thought 10k. This chapter is the first to reflect this new understanding in the acceptance that Styr's army is likely to be larger than that which could be raised by the Scots.
The damp moss at the Cess pit was used as toilet paper, due care would need to be taken against careless gathering of it meaning it may have contained any thorns. (Yes we do have Archaeological evidence for the use of the moss and it occasionally containing hidden thorns).
The keeping of bees seems to have been common place, honey being the only sweetener available; the tightly woven Skeps they were kept in enabled easy transportation if needed. Whilst we have found the remains of Skeps complete with 1000 year old dead bees, one aspect of bee keeping of the period is only known from Christian writings of the time, the use of bees in battle. These writings report that skeps were sealed and thrown at an enemy, bursting open to release the angry bees.
Many thanks to all who read the last chapter and especially to those who reviewed it.
Thanks also, as always, to Jascott who despite moving house then mislaying his pen drive with this (and the next) chapter on it then finding it a couple of days ago, has as always conducted the onerous task of Beta ing this chapter.
You may notice that since last time I have added a new one shot story “Is a Mukkinese Battle Horn Bad For Your Health?” It's a side ways look at the first term of Ginny's 6th year. If you haven't yet found it then click on my author name at the top.
I have also made and updated the banners for this story, Essence of Revenge and the Path.
Despite all this I have continued to work on Lord of Tang of course, Jascott has chapter15 already and 16 is waiting to be sent. I am still not going to give any promises about timings for updates though, sorry.
Hope you enjoy this chapter, I look forward to reading any reviews you may be kind enough to leave, I will reply to them all, even if it is just to say thanks.
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